Guyana’s national football team got off to a flying start by winning their first World Cup qualifying game in Group B against Barbados 2-0 at the National Stadium Providence on Friday night. The win is the first step on the long road to the 2014 World Cup to be held in neighboring Brazil.
It was clear from the opening whistle that the Golden Jaguars were intent on putting on a show for the local crowd. The team attacked the Bajans relentlessly and the superior quickness of the Jags showed with several players being caught offside. The Jags have a combination of young and experienced international players within their ranks. It is one of those international players, Shawn “Bubblie” Beveney who currently plays in the Asian Pro League, who took advantage of the sluggish Barbados defense and put one in the back of the net in the 26th minute.
All was not well for the local side however. With the resumption of the game in the second half the linesman keeping watch on the Barbados half of the field flagged the Jaguars several times for runs which appeared to be legal, much to the disapproval of the large crowd. The frustration even spilled on to the players when heated words were exchanged between two players from the opposing teams causing the game referee to intervene. The most disappointing call came after a shot to goal was saved by the Bajan goalie but JP Rodriguez took advantage of the rebound and sent a blistering shot past the stunned keeper only to be flagged offside. The Golden Jags also missed several scoring opportunities. This was an indictment on the local side which is touted to have skilled play makers but lacks effective finishers.
37 year old Charles “lily” Pollard, who was one of the players honored at the 2010-2011 Kashif and Shanghai Football tournament for his significant contribution to Guyanese football, showed why he is considered as one of the best. In the 76th minute with several Bajan defenders around Pollard struck a blistering shot past the keeper to put the Jags up 2-0, needless to say some fans were looking to see if the linesman had his flag up, this proved not to be the case.
After the game, Technical Advisor of the Golden Jaguars Jamaal Shabazz related that he was pleased with the team’s performance despite not being %100 fit. He also made a case for the inclusion of several international players into the squad. “When you have senior players like Charles Pollard at 37 and Trevon George at 17 on the same side it can only be good for Guyana’s football.” He said it is good to have young players see guys who have played football locally and have transitioned to the regional and international arena and that motivates them to train hard to develop their skills in hopes of one day achieving such goals and even higher. Shabazz added that though the team did not convert all scoring opportunities he is satisfied that plays were being created.
Guyana will face Bermuda in the second Group B match on Tuesday at the National Stadium Providence. Bermuda lost 1-0 to Trinidad and Tobago earlier in the day.
By - Andrew Ross